Knights top PE to end with win

Published 6:27 am Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Buckingham County High School varsity football team cast aside the difficulties that have defined its season Friday night and made the end of its year about something different yet quite familiar to Knights fans — winning.

While Host Prince Edward County High School was the team looking to secure as high a seed as possible for the playoffs, the Knights came back from a 16-point third-quarter deficit and claimed their second win of the season, upsetting the Eagles 34-28.

Prince Edward falls to 5-5 and exchanges the No. 11 seed in Region 2A East for the No. 13 seed, but this still means the Eagles have qualified for the postseason. They visit No. 4 East Rockingham High School (7-3) in the first round of the regional playoffs Friday at 7 p.m.

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Buckingham’s streak of consecutive years making the playoffs ends at seven as the Knights went 2-8 this season, but they nonetheless finished the year on a high note they can build on for 2017.

“It means a lot to me because I’m happy for the kids,” Buckingham Head Coach Joshua Wallace said of the win. “And I shouldn’t say kids — I’ve got men.”

The Knights took an early 8-0 lead after a touchdown run by freshman Walter Edwards and a 2-point conversion run by senior Sean Ayers. The Eagles pulled within two on a 3-yard touchdown run by junior Zion Lewis with 3:53 left in the first quarter, but Buckingham led 10-6 at halftime after an end zone tackle for a safety by junior Brycen Newby late in the second quarter.

Momentum swung significantly in the direction of the Eagles in the third quarter when they scored three straight touchdowns to charge ahead 26-10.

A 42-yard touchdown by senior Bryan Moses on a pass from senior Joel Thomas gave Prince Edward a 14-10 lead two-and-a-half minutes into the half.

A little more than four minutes later, Lewis connected with Moses for a 66-yard touchdown pass, and a little less than three minutes after that, Thomas passed to junior Khalil Smith for a 75-yard touchdown.

With 1:35 to go in the third quarter, the Knights made it a one-score game when Edwards connected with senior Daquarious Holman for a 54-yard touchdown pass, and Ayers ran for the 2-point conversion to make it 26-18.

A 7-yard Edwards touchdown run and an Ayers 2-point conversion with 7:14 left in the fourth quarter tied the game up, 26-26.

On the Buckingham 7-yard line, Holman came up with a big interception at the 4:48 mark, giving his team a chance to go on a long drive and take the lead. But instead, the Eagles went up 28-26 with four minutes remaining when they forced a safety.

After receiving the free kick, the Eagles fumbled the ball early on their drive, and the Knights recovered with 3:40 on the clock. A Prince Edward penalty and strong running by senior quarterback Ky’Aire Chambers and Edwards helped put the Knights on the Eagles 32-yard line.

From there, Chambers managed to reach the end zone on a remarkable running play.

“I was supposed to give it to Sean, saw (the defense was) coming down for Sean, so I just pulled it,” he said.

He chose a direction and ran, but that way became blocked.

“So, I cut back, and I saw daylight, and I was just like, ‘Either I’m going to get there or not,’ so I just kept running,” he said. “All I could do was score it.”

Edwards ran for the 2-point conversion to make the score 34-28 with 2:24 left in the game.

Prince Edward had a chance to go for the win, starting at its own 46-yard line. But later, a pivotal sack of Thomas by Ayers put the Eagles in a third-and-20 situation at their own 36. On the following play, Knights senior Juwan Dibble sealed the win by hauling in an interception with 1:04 to go.

“We stayed together,” Chambers said, explaining what made the difference in the game. “We didn’t fall apart and start fussing or arguing with each other. We stayed together as a team, and we played Buckingham football like Coach (Craig) Gill taught us.”

Wallace noted that all sorts of players stepped up, including senior lineman Joshua Banks, picking up the A-gap, freshman center Garrett Hafely, making good snaps, junior linebacker/offensive lineman Bryce Leake, playing every single snap, senior running back Ray Monroe, coming through with big runs, and junior defensive back William Davis, defending well against the pass.

“Hats off to Buckingham,” said Ford, who also added that his team got back to some of its old ways of committing penalties and costly turnovers that contributed to its defeat.

Ford was pleased to see his team improve in the regular season from 3-7 last year to 5-5 this season, though he saw room for even more improvement.

“But now it’s over, and the regular season is done, so now it’s on to win-or-go-home,” he said. “We’ve got a one-game season.”